Wednesday, 13 November

Institute Rector Withdraws Slander Suit Against Hetq Reporter

Today, at the Kentron and Nork-Marash General Jurisdictional Court, Mikayel Amirkhanyan, Rector of the Yerevan Humanities Institute, declared that he was withdrawing a defamation suit he had filed against Hetq reporter Ani Hovhannisyan. He had sued, arguing that the reporter’s article "Yes, I am engaged in business" (June 3, 2010) slandered his good name, honor and reputation.

Mr. Amirkhanyan was demanding a retraction by the reporter. He was also seeking 200,000 AMD in material damages and 8,000 for a government fine already paid. It appears that both the plaintiff and his attorney had not been aware of changes to Article 19 of the RA Criminal Code stating that a reporter or editorial board were free of accountability if, rather than expressing their own opinion, were merely conveying the words of another. The article in question had conveyed the opinion of Gayaneh Malishenko, a student at the Institute. Mr. Amirkhanyan said that he planned to sue the student instead. At today’s trial, Mr. Amirkhanyan did not immediately declare that he was pulling out of the law suit against the Hetq reporter. Rather he took 20 minutes talking about the fine work being accomplished at the Institute. The rector said he was at a loss to understand why Malishenko slandered him in such a fashion, noting that he could only think it might be because he didn’t cut her tuition fees by 10,000 AMD, like the rest of the students who applied. At the previous trial session, the prosecution failed to hand over a number of documents that the court had requested after the defense team motioned the court to do so. Olya Safaryan, the defense attorney, again requested the court to uphold the motion and the court once again demanded that orh=ginal copies if the documents be oresented.

Rector Amirkhanyan refused to do so, arguing that he only had copies in his possession. Attorney Safaryan told Hetq that she had also demanded the Institute’s lease contract from the Yerevan State Theater and Film Institute, but that she never heard back from them.

Hetq Chief Editor Edik Baghdasaryan commented on the developments in the trail and said that it appears the Rector wishes to close the case as quickly as possible given that more "dirty laundry" might be exposed if the case went on.

"At the same time, Rector Amirkhanyan made certain comments at today’s trial that might lead to sanctions against the Institute by various government agencies. I refer to the fact that the Institute was garnishing a certain amount of the student’s wages. Doesn’t this mean that the Rector was engaging in labor exploitation and holding on to a portion of their wages against their will?" Baghdasaryan said. The court will declare its final verdict regarding the case on October 14.

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